To the editor:
The discourse around transportation in Kelowna is passionate, one-sided, and off-target from effective solutions. It is political red meat for those who want to exploit it with costly quick fixes of more lanes, second crossings, and parking structures. While they may seem to provide relief for suffering motorists, it is based on a costly outdated premise that it’s possible to build your way out of congestion. You can’t, and the proof is every other North American city that’s failed. It’s called induced demand. Studies show that increases in capacity always result in higher congestion with a recent study showing a 1:1 relationship.
Furthermore, autonomous vehicles could eliminate personal car ownership providing convenient mobility far more efficiently. This would make investments in additional roads and parking stranded assets attached to huge debt.
Yet it is only one side that we hear in our local media as stubborn and outdated as it overplays Bryan Adams. While nostalgic fans cheer, many roll their eyes awaiting Kelowna’s evolution to this century.
This week’s Capital News column “The bridge that was built too small” is the latest example. It incorrectly diagnosis congestion on the Bennett Bridge as a “miscalculated” decision to only build two lanes for eastbound traffic.
Most of us live in Kelowna for its unmatched quality of life, yet our car obsession is poisoning it to the point that parking is defining our architecture and few are questioning the sanity of another bridge and highway through a thriving downtown.
We have the highest per capita vehicle ownership in the country. Our problem is not lack of roads or parking, it’s too many cars competing for road space. We are potentially doing everything possible to reach peak car. Parking is cheap, roads are free, we complain about gas prices but buy trucks that take up extra space, we put students on a hill, we love sprawl, and we lack constructive dialogue about these things. It is not viable to create a community that is congestion free under these conditions.
Congestion can be solved. It requires each of us to do our part, employers to support other transportation options, align school busing policies to avoid parent chauffeurs, new developments to have mobility strategies that support one-car households, consider road pricing, encourage local governments to plan for mass transit with high levels of service like concentrating future growth along corridors like the rail trail, get BC Transit’s mandate to be customer growth not run a lacklustre service on an arbitrary budget, and get the province to fund projects based on how effectively they move people rather than just cars.
Now let’s change the conversation so we can get on with it.
Robert Stupka, MASc., P.Eng., Kelowna, BC